12 July 2008


SIX POUNDS? Now come on, I know that the last time I went to the Haymarket they were charging £4.00, which was bad enough (see my review for The Lady from Dubuque as I believe I may have commented there on the price of the programme) – but SIX?? I even saw an American reel back white-faced from a programme seller; he finally managed to croak “Don’t you have any cheaper ones?” As he’d paid nearly $100 for his seat, even I felt a slight sympathy for the bloke – but not that much; if you're a broke but canny theatre-goer, there are ways and means....
Honestly, without wanting to rant on about this (oh, alright then, you persuaded me), its an economic downturn, for chrissakes. If you want to pack your theatre out with punters, then its no good making a night out financially beyond Mr. and Mrs. Joe Public. Add on a couple of interval drinks and maybe an ice-cream, plus your travel costs there and back and you’re not looking at much (if any) change from £150 – and that’s before you’ve had anything to eat (mind you, this is probably why The Stockpot in Panton Street was heaving with punters; it may not be Gordon Ramsey and the waitress looked like she had just clambered out of the big wicker hamper marked “Muppet Show Rejects”, but money’s money). I remember the days when you could get a programme and an orange squash for 3d and still have change for a fish supper on the way home. Catherine Tate has recently said much the same thing – about ticket prices, not about fish suppers – and although the cynical part of me thinks that it was merely a plugging device (“Catherine Tate, star of Doctor Who, who is shortly appearing in whatever it is at the Doobry Theatre, lashed out at high ticket prices today….”), what she says is very true, and never truer when we’re all having to give up the third foreign holiday, pull the sprog out of drama school and get him a job on the Pick’n’Mix Counter at Woolworths and drink tap water in restaurants just in order to pay the friggin’ gas bill.

Oh yes, it’s a very nice programme – big, glossy, 12 pages of colour photographs, three pretentious background articles of the kind that one normally finds in programmes at the National Theatre, just the sort of souvenir that I’d be happy to have of something like The Sound of Music or Wicked – but I baulk at paying £6.00 for a “souvenir programme” of yet another rehash of La Dame aux bloody Camellias. Even the Royal Opera House doesn’t charge that much.
OK, I know putting on a show isn’t cheap, especially if there’s an orchestra in the pit to pay for as well, but come on, producers, why not pile it high and sell it cheap? Otherwise, you run the risk of half empty houses, a “papered” auditorium or a much shorter run than you would like. None of which are good for the business. Even though its recently been reported that sales of tickets for big musicals are booming (mainly thanks to I’d Do Anything to Solve a Problem Like Joseph Lloyd-Webber and all its wretched progeny), I don’t see why we punters should be bled dry just because we want something to read in the interval. Mind you, there’s an opening there for some savvy east end would-be entrepreneur – setting up shop outside renting out programmes, two pahnd a shot guvner, twenny percent discahnt if you bring it back at ‘arf time, extra fifty pee reduction if it ain’t all covered in greasy fingermarks, one for the missus as well? There’s an episode of “The Apprentice” there somewhere.

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